Wednesday 1st of December 2021

horsing around with hero zero...


There’s a major greenwashing event taking place in Australia. After decades of attacking the climate movement, the Liberal Party and the Murdoch press have—so they tell us—finally seen the light, jumped aboard a newly minted “green and gold” bandwagon, and set course for “net zero by 2050”.



by Anneke Demanuele, James Plested


The Herald Sun and other News Corp tabloids went all out in early October with a 16 page wrap-around supplement spruiking the wonderful opportunities presented by the push for a greener Australia—part of the company’s broader “Mission Zero” campaign. Contained within were stories about how new green developments will mean a massive boost to the economy, a piece celebrating former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s supposed green credentials and an FAQ section which, funnily enough, is focussed on allaying the kind of concerns that (who knows why?) regular News Corp readers have likely had about climate action up to now: Will it lead to blackouts? Will my power bill go up? Isn’t climate change natural?

Of course it’s no coincidence that the News Corp campaign coincides with a significant shift in rhetoric from Scott Morrison and other Liberals. When there’s an election looming, you can expect the editorial line of the Murdoch press (as if by magic) to suddenly fit more or less perfectly with whatever pitch the conservative side of politics has decided might swing a few votes its way.

So it is, this time, with climate change. Morrison—a man who wasn’t even convinced of the need for more serious climate action after watching much of Australia be consumed by fire in the Black Summer of 2019-20—is a sudden enthusiastic convert to the country setting itself a binding “net zero by 2050” emissions target.

How should climate activists understand this? It’s true there’s been a shift in attitudes towards climate change among a section of Australia’s ruling class. They can see the global push for emissions reductions could offer some significant opportunities for profit for first movers in the green economy. The enthusiasm of the likes of mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest for things like green hydrogen isn’t based on any purely moral commitment to sustainability. There’s potentially a lot of money to be made by those offering “green” products and services in a world where projecting a green image is increasingly crucial for big business.

Even the Business Council of Australia (BCA)—which in 2018 described Labor’s then 2030 emissions reduction target of 45 percent as “economy wrecking”—recently announced its own commitment to “net zero”.

When you look beyond the rhetoric, however, you see the green economy they envisage isn’t meant to replace the existing, fossil-fuel guzzling “brown” economy, but merely to offset it. There’s very little talk, in the BCA’s glossy plan for Achieving a Net Zero Economy, of actually cutting Australia’s production of fossil fuels. There’s a lotof talk, meanwhile, about the supposed potential of offsetting schemes like carbon capture and storage.

The Australian ruling class believe they can have their cake and eat it too. By getting behind a long-term “net zero” target, they can both ensure they don’t miss out on any profits to be made from the demand for low and negative emissions technologies and products, and continue, for the foreseeable future, to reap the (much greater) benefits that flow from being among the world’s biggest producers of fossil fuels. We can expect that, in the coming years, whatever happens on the green side of this equation will be promoted to high heaven by business leaders, politicians and the media, while the massively more substantial (and profitable) “brown” economy will go on, as before, quietly in the background. 

Morrison rightly sees an opportunity in refashioning himself as the political frontman for this plan. Having cut a deal with the few remaining recalcitrants in the Nationals, he can go to the COP26 summit in Glasgow and strut the world stage as part of the fashionable “net zero by 2050” club. On his return to Australia, he can expect to be feted by a highly credulous media, and then roll on into an election campaign in which his new green sheen is likely to play well at the polls.

To the extent that anyone much gets sucked in by this, it will be a setback for the climate movement.

Morrison’s “net zero” hype is just another con by a master climate criminal—a strategy (as the likes of Murdoch and the BCA are no doubt well aware) for kicking the can another decade or so down the road. Previously Morrison and his friends at News Corp tried to do that by dismissing climate activists as crazed extremists and denying there was anything to worry about. Now they’re trying to do it by adopting a “net zero” target that’s set so far in the future, and rests so much on offsetting rather than actually cutting emissions, that it will allow the business as usual of fossil capitalism in Australia to continue more or less unimpeded for at least the next decade.

Under the “net zero” plan, what’s on offer isn’t a transition to a genuinely green economy. What’s on offer is the same old dirty brown economy with a coat of green paint.

“Net zero by 2050” targets aren’t going to save us from climate catastrophe. The climate crisis is already here, and it’s rapidly getting worse. Under Morrison’s big-business-backed plan, the mining magnates can continue to collect their mega-profits while the rest of us face an increasing level of destruction from heatwaves, drought, bushfires, floods, cyclones and rising seas. We need to fight to force a rapid and real reduction to zero emissions—not in 2030, not in 2050, but now.

As we emerge from the discomfort of lockdowns, we need to reignite the climate movement. Our political leaders—whether on the Liberal or the Labor side—can’t be trusted. No-one is coming to save us but us.

Around the world, climate activists will be protesting on Saturday, 6 November, as part of the COP26 Coalition’s global day of action for climate justice. In Australia, the protests are being organised by Uni Students for Climate Justice alongside other activist groups. That’s the first step. We need mass protests and mass disruption to stop the business as usual of the fossil fuel economy. We can’t let the greed of the wealthy few destroy the planet that we all depend on. COP26 won’t—as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed—be a “turning point for humanity”, but the climate movement can be.

Anneke Demanuele is the National Convenor of Uni Students for Climate Justice


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the mirage of zero...

On the face of it Scott Morrison has stared down Barnaby Joyce and heads to the Glasgow climate summit with his Coalition government locked into a net-zero emissions target by 2050.

However, there are clear signs that was the easy part for the Prime Minister.

If you could believe the theatrics of the past three weeks, the Nationals were threatening to blow up the government if the PM dared head off to the most significant international conference in decades without their stamp of approval.


Last week Mr Morrison called that bluff when he told Parliament that the decision would be made by his cabinet – the engine room of government where the Nationals are a distinct minority.

Despite some misgivings, his Liberal party room had already given him the green light and, besides, he needed to keep his urban moderates and their voters on side.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce even spelled out it could mean the Nationals withdrawing from the government and supporting the Liberals as a minority administration from the cross bench, though he quickly backed away from that and pleaded for more time.

As the impasse dragged into second week you couldn’t be blamed for thinking the political Punch and Judy show was getting serious.

The Labor Opposition isn’t buying it.


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hot air emissions...

You can only trust the whole of a building, institution or government by the integrity of its parts. Thus the whole weeks-long circus of Australia, Glasgow and “net zero” collapses.

A political promise – and it’s no more than that – of net zero by 2050 can’t have integrity if it relies in its structure on carbon capture and storage, explicitly supporting fossil fuels, and potentially very rortable payments to farmers for burying carbon.

And then it gets worse.


If there’s nothing to hide about the modelling (if such modelling actually exists yet beyond the back of an envelope), or the deal the Nationals extorted, why hide them?

Well, yes, if the Nationals deal includes $3 billion to extend Barnaby Joyce’s Inland Rail line to Gladstone to haul coal, a stranded asset in the making, there is good reason to keep it under wraps before fronting the world.

The circus has performed its key political purpose: It has concentrated attention on 2050, far enough away to make it possible to say anything without much meaning or electoral impact.

That is at the expense of the real Glasgow story: Genuine commitments for 2030.

Rational climate policy in Australia remains poisoned by Tony Abbott’s years of total opposition. Neither the Coalition or Labor is capable of much differentiation by the election. Neither dares mention “tax” or “carbon price” in other than a derogatory way.

The irony of Mathias Cormann – an accessory in vilifying carbon pricing here – finding climate religion could not be missed on Thursday:

“Carbon prices and equivalent measures need to become significantly more stringent, and globally better co-ordinated, to properly reflect the cost of emissions to the planet and put us on the path to genuinely meet the Paris Agreement climate goals,” Mr Cormann said with his OECD hat on.

The former finance minister was merely stating the obvious, chiming in with what the IMF was saying on Wednesday, what just about every economist on Earth has been: It’s best to price carbon and employ the power of the market mechanism.


It works out much cheaper than a government trying to pick winners or, in the case of CCS, losers.

As Alan Kohler explained, Australia pretending technology is going to solve all our emission problems for free is, at best, freeloading on the mandates and pricing that has driven such technology.

Scott Morrison’s “Australian way” is to be a bludger.

Everyone who has been following this game knows how shallow, how lacking in integrity, the “plan” proposed by the federal government is.

Adding insult to injury, those who haven’t been following are about to pay $14 million to be told by Mr Morrison what a great job Mr Morrison is doing on climate change.

Beware the “technology, not taxes” slogan – your taxes are paying for the advertising and the dodgy elements of the technology.

Meanwhile, New Zealand is introducing a mandatory requirement for our big banks that operate there to publish their climate change risk assessment – to disclose the threats that climate change poses to their business and prepare strategies for managing climate-related risks and opportunities.

The NZ government is effectively forcing our banks to do the climate modelling our Treasury has not.

That’s rather embarrassing, too.


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Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has confirmed methane emission reduction targets were excluded from net-zero by 2050 plans in order for the Nationals to back the government policy.

Mr Joyce labelled attempts to reduce methane emissions as crippling for agricultural industries.

While the US and Europe will push attempts for a 30 per cent reduction in methane emissions by the end of the decade at this coming weekend’s Glasgow climate summit, Australia won’t back the proposal at the global meeting.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison will fly out for G20 talks on Thursday night – leaving Mr Joyce as acting PM. Mr Morrison will then head to the Glasgow summit, which starts on Sunday, as he seeks to mitigate criticism Australia isn’t pulling its weight on climate policy.

“What that would spell for the Australian beef industry, for the feed-lot industry, for the dairy industry, would be disaster,” Mr Joyce said on Thursday.

“The Nats were absolutely implicit that no deal would go forward that we would support unless it was absolutely categorically ruled out, and we got that.”

Mr Joyce said the only way to reach a 30 per cent methane reduction target would be for farmers to shoot their own cattle, indicating the target would not be possible.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government would look to reduce methane emissions by 80 per cent with new technologies at a future point in time.

“There has been some talk about some nations making short-term pledges in relation to methane, Australia is not pursuing that,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News.

“It would particularly impact on the agricultural sector and we don’t want to impose a short-term burden.”


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